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Impact of soil map specifications for European climate simulations

Type of publication Peer-reviewed
Publikationsform Original article (peer-reviewed)
Author Guillod BP, Davin EL, Kundig C, Smiatek G, Seneviratne SI,
Project CarboCount CH: Quantifying greenhouse gas fluxes and their sensitivity to climate variations: A case study in Central Europe and Switzerland
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Original article (peer-reviewed)

Volume (Issue) 40(1-2)
Page(s) 123 - 141
Title of proceedings CLIMATE DYNAMICS


Soil physical characteristics can influence terrestrial hydrology and the energy balance and may thus affect land–atmosphere exchanges. However, only few studies have investigated the importance of soil textures for climate. In this study, we examine the impact of soil texture specification in a regional climate model. We perform climate simulations over Europe using soil maps derived from two different sources: the soil map of the world from the Food and Agricultural Organization and the European Soil Database from the European Commission Joint Research Center. These simulations highlight the importance of the specified soil texture in summer, with differences of up to 2 °C in mean 2-m temperature and 20 % in precipitation resulting from changes in the partitioning of energy at the land surface into sensible and latent heat flux. Furthermore, we perform additional simulations where individual soil parameters are perturbed in order to understand their role for summer climate. These simulations highlight the importance of the vertical profile of soil moisture for evapotranspiration. Parameters affecting the latter are hydraulic diffusivity parameters, field capacity and plant wilting point. Our study highlights the importance of soil properties for climate simulations. Given the uncertainty associated with the geographical distribution of soil texture and the resulting differences between maps from different sources, efforts to improve existing databases are needed. In addition, climate models would benefit from tackling unresolved issues in land-surface modeling related to the high spatial variability in soil parameters, both horizontally and vertically, and to limitations of the concept of soil textural class.